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Police fire tear gas as protesters honoring victims of Lekki toll gate shooting spill on to streets


It’s one year to the day since security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll gate. The shooting quashed Nigeria’s fledgling youth protest movement, known as #EndSARS. No one has yet been held to account for the violence.

The organizers of Wednesday’s protests called those who had died “fallen heroes” and said they had to come to the toll gate to remember them.

There was at times a tense stand-off between security forces and the protesters, who made a handful of arrests, including a man who was being interviewed by CNN.

Ahead of the memorial event, the organizers and Lagos State commissioner of police agreed that the only way a protest could take place was in vehicles and not through marches on the street.

However, some of the protesters spilled on to the streets, chanting “solidarity forever,” and “how many of us will you kill?”

Police soon released teargas to disperse those who were demonstrating on the streets, calling them “miscreants” in an interview with the media.

Meanwhile, at a press conference held Wednesday in Abuja, the Nigerian government once again denied that police had fired on protesters on October 20 last year — calling it a “phantom massacre” — and described CNN’s reporting on the shooting as “baseless.”

In a report published Tuesday, the mother of a 32 year-old-man who took part in last year’s Lekki toll gate protest told CNN how she found him lying in a pool of blood on the ground after racing to the scene when she heard about the shooting.
'He died in my arms.' Twelve months on, a mother's agonizing wait to find out why her son died at Lekki toll gate

“When I saw my son, I shouted and held him … The blood was too much, there was a bullet wound on his chest. His clothes were torn and the bullet had come out of his back,” she said, weeping.

Her son died in her arms as she tried to get him to a hospital. A year later, she’s still waiting for answers about what happened.

CNN also spoke to several families during an investigation last year who were yet to locate the bodies of their missing loved ones — protesters at the toll gate — who dozens of eyewitnesses say were shot at, first by members of the Nigerian army and then hours later by police.
There is no official death toll, but an Amnesty International investigation found that at least 12 people died at Lekki toll gate and another site on October 20 last year.

Eyewitnesses told CNN they saw the army remove a number of bodies from the scene.

The #EndSARS protests lasted for nearly two weeks in October 2020 before they were silenced by the shooting at the Lekki toll gate. Their initial demands were for a notorious police unit known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, or SARS, to be shut down, but the marches morphed into protests campaigning for police reform and an end to bad governance in the oil-rich country.

CNN’s Stephanie Busari reported from Lagos and Nimi Princewill from Abuja.

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